Baseball team returns lots of experience

Junior Jackson Frank pitches during a varsity baseball game last season. The team returns an experienced roster from last season. “We really need to improve our focus during games and practice,” Frank said. The Chargers opened the season Tuesday against Chase County.

Baseball opens its season 4:30 tonight against Chase County

If a few plays had gone differently, the Charger baseball team could be looking at three straight state appearances.

The team made the school’s only state appearance in 2017, but in both 2016 and 2018, the season ended in the regional championship game — one run short of victory.

According to senior Logan Brown, that history makes this team hungry for success. The Chargers opened the season Tuesday against Chase County, the team that ended its season last year. “We really want revenge for regionals,” Brown said.

The team should have the offensive firepower to be competitive again, returning four of the top five batting averages from last season. “Batting average and runs scored was the highest it has been in my time here,” assistant coach Jess Rutledge said.

Despite graduating several seniors, the team is full of experienced players. “We have lots of depth overall. A number of kids can play multiple positions, so we’ll be pretty versatile,” head coach Jeron Weisshaar said.

Rutledge said the versatility could provide a strategic advantage. “Last year we had to adjust a lot for injuries, so we have a lot of guys with varsity experience,” Rutledge said. “We have enough depth to potentially play two completely different lineups in a double header without missing a beat.”

Pitching will provide more or a challenge, as the team looks to develop a larger roster of talent early in the season. Pitchers include juniors Jackson Frank and Eli Wollenberg, sophomores Tyler Lohmeyer and Isaac Lira and freshman Cade Oliver. “We have several pitchers, but we graduated about 50 percent of our innings pitched, so gaining experience early in the season will be important,” Weisshaar said.

Junior Eli Wollenberg said the team’s experience playing together will make them more competitive. “Everyone from our old 14 and under team, the Rattlers, is on the team this year. You know how they play and can count on them during a game,” Wollenberg said.

“We’ve been playing together since grade school, so we have good chemistry as a team,” junior Chad Chambers said.

Brown said the team is ready to compete, but they need to stay focused throughout the season. “We need to work hard to continue getting better. A lot of younger players are stepping up. We have good leadership too — everyone wants to hold each other accountable.”

Chambers also expects the team to play well. “I think we have the athleticism to win lots of games, but we need to make sure we have the mentality of a winning team. We have to work hard during practice. I think we expect to be a team that can go to state.”

Results against Chase County were not available at press time, but the team will continue its season Tuesday at home against Mission Valley.

— Brendan Praeger, @bpraeger

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